Howdy, Pounders!!! It's time yet again for another eye-scarring ramble from PtR's self-appointed cheerleader, yours truly. Having been blessed with a slow workday on top of a pleasantly relaxing, restful Easter holiday weekend, I've been given more time than usual to reflect on this season, this current Spurs team, and this current win streak, and how it all fits into the ever-expanding narrative of Spurs' fandom. More musings after the jump.
My fellow Spurs fans, I get it. There is a ton of good feelings and quiet confidence about our Spurs right now. The Silver and Black Kool Aid is flowing as freely as it ever has in any of our four title runs, and regardless of how little face time the good guys receive in the national media, the pervading sentiment among Spurs fans I talk to is that we've seen what we're witnessing before. These games, and the manner in which the Spurs are winning them, ring eerily similar (from a dominance standpoint) of every great Spurs team over the past decade plus. Whether or not those teams won titles is almost irrelevant--true diehard fans know when their team is clicking, and if you're not ecstatic about this team's potential in 2012, you haven't been paying attention.
That said, even those who're paying rapt attention to every squeak of a silver and black sneaker may miss out on enjoying the little things that develop slowly, but over time have just as much of an effect on the franchise as performance of the Big 3. What I'm talking about is the development and maturation of a team. Much ado has been made (and rightfully so, I might add) about the Spurs' depth this season, but allow me to be frank--the Spurs have had deep teams before that didn't develop into that near-perfect winning formula in the past for whatever reason. Depth is not a panacea. But depth combined with steady leadership by example is powerful.
The scenario that comes most readily to my mind is the 2003 edition of the Spurs. In hindsight, most Spurs fans will concede that it was probably the "deepest" of any of our banner teams. But what most forget is that most folks (including San Antonians) didn't truly realize what a potent team they had on their hands to start the season. Similar to how the 2012 Spurs were written off early in the minds of many due to their spectacular 2011 flame-out, the '03 Spurs were viewed as a "back-to-the-drawing-board" squad, after having been ousted by the Lakers 2 consecutive years in a total of 9 games--definitely not a true challenger in the West, much less a title contender.
But something special happened in 2003--the Spurs morphed before our eyes like Bumblebee in Transformers, almost willing themselves to compete at a high level. Players who before the season were mostly unknown quantities stepped up. Parker came into his own. Ginobili had his coming out party. Bowen's defense started turning heads. A young Stephen Jackson became a reliable contributor. Role players began to integrate seamlessly into the system, starting with a been-there-done-that player in Malik Rose. Kevin Willis was rock-solid in spelling either of our twin towers. Steve Kerr and Steve Smith provided veteran savvy and deadeye shooting. An unassuming Speedy Claxton proved up to the task of backing up TP. And through it all, there was Tim Duncan and David Robinson, the former elevating his game to a level reserved for the great ones in his second straight MVP season, and the latter defying age and health concerns to give the team its defensive anchor and unparalleled leadership.
The 2012 Spurs have their tried and true Big 3 primed for yet another run. This is not news. What is exciting about these Spurs is the gradual blooming of talent and role-filling that has propelled them to a stellar record thus far, in spite of the scheduling hedonism that has reigned in this lockout-abbreviated season. Will these as yet unproven and relatively unknown "other" Spurs be the ones to take us over the top and possibly usher in a new era of Spurs' dominance? Is perennial +/- leader Matt Bonner ready to take the next step and keep defenses honest in the postseason. Is Gary Neal a clutch enough shooter to conjure up ghosts of past Spurs assassins? Will Tiago Splitter be able to hang tough when the level of competition increases? Is Danny Green another all-around player with a high BBIQ who can change the game? Is there any limit to the nearly nightly improvements we see in Kawhi Leonard's game? What about Patty Mills? Gone are the days when national pundits would dare insinuate that a healthy Manu is not to be depended upon for double-digit scoring bursts (as they did in the 2003 playoffs), but now some lesser known Spurs are literally laughed away from serious consideration merely based upon their names like "Tiago" and "Patty."
Whether or not these Spurs have their time in the sun (as I belive it is inevitable they will) or not, take a moment as a Spurs fan and appreciate the team we have before us. Whether history views the 2012 Spurs as a flash in the pan or a changing of the guard, this season has made me proud all over again to call myself a fan of this franchise.